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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Proud of myself

Today might be one and only time in my life that I will be able to say this: I did something that was more 'thinking like an economist' than Steven Levitt! On the Freakonomics blog this morning, Levitt wrote about how he and his family dealt with a problem with their cat. Unfortunately, their solution to the problem involved doing several different things, any one of which might be the true solution. Since some of the things involve substantial cost (like kitty Prozac - I kid you not, go read it!), it would be good to know what was the real key so they could stop the other things. Levitt uses this as a lesson in the benefits of experimentation. He's basically advocating putting 'ceteris paribus' (all else equal) into action - i.e., keeping everything the same while you change one thing at a time, so you can isolate what works and what doesn't (and I assume this is how they will eventually figure out what they can subtract from their cat's regimen).

So the reason I'm proud of myself is that I actually went through this exact thought process earlier this week. I've always gotten occasional pimples, but for some reason, I've been breaking out more in the past few weeks (and since it's summer, I definitely can't blame it on stress). So I was at Target, about to buy new facial cleanser, some pimple cream and a stronger exfolliant, when it occured to me that I should only try one thing at a time so I could figure out exactly what was working (though probably the main reason this occured to me is that I was trying to figure out how to not have to stop eating chocolate as well but that's not the point...). So when I read Levitt's post, I knew exactly what he was talking about. I just can't believe it didn't occur to him until after they had made all the changes for the cat...

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